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The Future of Hospitality is….Retail?

From the desk of Rebecca Bucnis, EVP & Chief Commercial Officer at Kalibri Labs

Surely you have heard the expression that every business is becoming a retailer, well, nowhere is that more true than in hotels. From my point-of-view, the true future of hospitality is creating unique guest experiences, but that doesn’t mean that hotels can’t learn a few tricks from savvy online ‘retail’ merchandisers!

Retail today should quickly illicit images of sales, discounts and value for shopping. From weekly circulars to daily specials to coupon clipping, savvy shoppers are always looking for deals. Into today’s digital paradigm, selling models have evolved to such concepts as:

  • Time sensitive sales (only available until 11:59 pm)

  • Limited quantities (only 3 more in stock)

  • One-click purchase, where, in one fast click, you can easily make a purchase

  • Instant delivery (up to and including same-day delivery!)

  • Eventually blending concepts of store and online presence with ‘endless aisle’ and social feedback

What could this look like for hotel marketers if they focused more on retail packaging and less on room-types and discounted pricing models.

  1. Value Pricing
    In an information-rich society, online buyers search until they are rewarded with finding a ‘real-bargain’. In research, we see smart hotel marketers creating packages that are priced almost to “BAR” – or the best available rate. Think about breakfast included, free parking and extra days at a percentage less. More creatively this could include dinner packages, spa treatments or local events.

  2. Time Sensitivity
    To create a perceived sense of need and urgency, offering time-restricted values offers as an additional buying incentive. When done occasionally, and with care, special valued guest pricing and seasonal treats can be viewed as exclusive and unique.

  3. Ease of Purchase
    Amazon has created a best practice in one-click buying. Some mobile applications today, where your profile is already in place, can offer ‘easy to purchase’ options. Airlines often will upsell upgrades and seating options as you check-in. Surely we can offer additional benefits in one-click buying

  4. Blending of online and stores with ‘omni-channel’ retailing

    As you enter a store today, you can easily link to a retailer’s web presence. This can be anything such as:

    • Connecting to free WiFi

    • Linking to product details (scan, bar codes, photos, websites)

    • Entering sweepstakes or contests that attempt to access the shopper’s identity

    • Encouraging shoppers to share digital information (Pinterest ratings at Nordstrom)

    This leads to connecting of social and social UGC with peer-to -peer reviews.  Anything that suggests that your products are highly regarded adds values to today’s shopper. It is a reassurance that someone more trustworthy than a product marketer values your product.  Given the richness and vast opportunity to provide information and feedback (videos, photos, ratings) on a longer experience, such as an overnight stay, the goal is to seamlessly offer ways for your guests to provide feedback.

  5. Personalizing offerings to the individual guest
    From simplistic matching algorithms of ‘people who bought this, also purchased that’ to tailored home pages and specific promotional offers, modern shoppers want hand-picked choices. For hotels, about the future guest, is meaningful. From specific transportation requirements, to food preferences to the favor room or drink, any time you create a unique feeling of ‘recognitions’ customers are most often delighted. This brings me back to the true future of hotels – the unique guest experience.

In the meanwhile, savvy digital buyers expect value for money and wish to be rewarded for their research efforts. Hoteliers could benefit from new merchandising techniques while creating urgency and a need to ‘book-now’.

Not so far into the future, Amazon, as it enters the hotel space may be able to include your weekend getaway, your city business trip and your dinner reservations and your room key all in one-click check-out!

After all, haven’t you actually hastily bought something you didn’t really need, simply because there were only 3 left in stock?